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As an early "settler" in Bradford Park and considering its current state of development, I thought I would research the history of this land, and share it with others. Bradford Park is not to be confused with Bradford Woods, located nearby in Allegheny County. Many people assume I live in Bradford Woods when I say I am from Bradford Park. While they are near each other and share the name Bradford, they have different histories.
Bradford Park is located 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, PA in the southeast corner of Beaver County (formed in 1800). Bradford Park is in Economy Borough, which formed as Economy Township in 1827. Its first post offices were established in 1843 and 1863, and the name was changed to Economy Borough in 1958.
Economy Borough is bordered on the east by Butler County, on the west by the Ohio River, and the south by Allegheny County. Neighboring communities are New Sewickley, Harmony and Marshall Townships, the Boroughs of Freedom, Conway, Baden, and the town of Ambndge.
The Wyandot and Delaware Indians occupied a large territory west of the Allegheny River. The 'Indian title to all the lands in Pennsylvania was finally extinguished by purchase under the humane and enlightened policy which characterized the course of William Penn and his heirs.' (excerpt from Settlement And Land Titles). According to my research, the Allegiwi Indians were the first known settlers in the area. These early residents were later conquered by the Iroquois Indians. The French occupied the area in the 1700s (before the English drove them out) and settled Logstown, which had been a Shawnee settlement. The land had coal and oil. There was good clay to make bricks and there were building stones available from the many quarries. There was water and good soil for farms.
The land was designated as Depreciation Land in the 1780s. The Depreciation Lands were awarded to officers and soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line and State Navy after the Revolutionary War as payment for their services. The land was divided into five districts for the purpose of surveying. The surveying of District 3 was divided among five individuals, including one Nathaniel Braden. Maps refer to this portion as the Braden Depreciation Lands of District No. 3.
In 1785 and 1786, Thomas Bradford patented three tracts of land, more than 900 acres, in the southeastern part of what would become Beaver County. He called Number 82, Fluvania; Number 83, Paradise; and Number 85, Golden Grove. A fourth tract, No. 86 (left unnamed) was patented in 1819. These four tracts are now Bradford Park and Bradford Park Square.
The paternal ancestors of Benjamin Rush Bradford were among the prominent citizens of Philadelphia for five generations. William Bradford, Benjamin Rush Bradford's great, great grandfather, (born 1660 in Lancaster, England, died 1752) came to America with William Penn in 1658. William was the first printer in the middle provinces, and the first to start a paper mill in Pennsylvania. His son, Andrew, was patriot and a friend of Benjamin Franklin. Andrew's son, Thomas Bradford, a printer also, (born 1745 and died 1838), was married in 1768 to Mary, daughter of Samuel Fisher. Thomas Bradford's son, Thomas (also) was born in 1780. In May of 1805, this Thomas married Elizabeth Lockerman, of Dover, Delaware. They had four sons and a daughter, and he died in 1851. Their second son, Benjamin Rush Bradford, was born in 1813, in Philadelphia, and later managed the four tracts of land in Economy Township. Benjamin Rush Bradford came to the area in 1837. Benjamin Rush lived in Mercer County until 1839 when he moved to a farm near New Brighton, PA. He married Margaret Campbell in 1840. His children were Juliet, Thomas and Eleanor. An 1876 Economy Township map shows Benjamin Rush Bradford as owner of the four tracts. An 1872 map shows three houses marked BRB.
The tracts stayed in the Bradford family until 1926 when Robert McB. Grindley bought them from the Bradford family for the sum of $9,585.
Before development as a residential community, the land was used for logging and farming and there was oil on the land. Portable saw mills were often used for the logging work, no permanent sites are known. There were several farms on the property, evidently leased. The name Dunlap is associated with two, the Weil family, another. Some of the apple trees from their orchards are still on the properties and have been enjoyed by the later residents. Mary Reed, widow of Jake Reed, had a store and farm along the road that still bears her name. In the early 1900s, many farms in Economy Township had oil wells - - mainly around Wallace City. Local sources noted that there were 30-40 oil wells in Bradford Park, reportedly averaging 1223 ft. in depth. Some of the well heads can still be located today.
Porter Beck bought the land from McB. Grindley in 1950. He divided it into five sections. The terrain was typical Western Pennsylvania rolling hills with picturesque streams and valleys. The sections had a variety of wooded, sparsely wooded and cleared lots from the logging, farming, and other uses the land had been put to.
Sections 1-4 had 695 lots of 105 acres each. Porter Beck sold lots in Section 1 first. Homes in that section had to cost $4,000 or more. When the first section was sold, he began to sell lots in Section 2. The required home value increased with each section. Beck kept the 'Bradford Park Field Office' on the corner of Bradford Park Road (originally Bock Lane) and Golden Grove Road until the 1970s, originally advertising "Lots for Little" with $50 down payments.
Porter Beck deeded one lot to the Bradford Park residents to be used as a park. In the 1950s and 60s, citizens formed the Bradford Park Community Council to improve the park. In the 1960s, this group built a baseball diamond and backstop, and an asphalt ice skating rink/basketball court. For a while there was a well with an iron pump on the property, and a old spring just down the road. The Community Council held picnics at the park. The park is now managed by Economy Borough.
Porter Beck finished the first four sections of his plan, but developed only part of Section 5. He sold most of the remaining section to Beho Development in the 1980s. The parcel consisted of 87 lots, valued at about $30,000 each. This section is now called Bradford Park Square, with home values in the $200,000+ range.
Many of the earlier Bradford Park roads and preexisting roads were unimproved (unpaved) until the 1980s and 90s. This historic land has increased in value ten-fold with the development of nearby Cranberry Township (about 3 miles away in Butler County), and significantly improved access to Pittsburgh via the new interstate connector roads. Water and natural gas were brought in to Bradford Park during the 1980s and 90s. Public sewer is to be installed in 2002.
I purchased my lot in 1957 and built on it in 1958. At that time, there were about 15 other homes in Bradford Park. Farm roads crossed the area and provided trails for our family to ride horses and for the children to use as bicycle trails. My children explored and played with friends here. In the woods, fields, and streams, they romped in the summer and enjoyed sledding and tobogganing on hillsides in the winter. There is game in the woods and a variety of wildlife to enjoy. Streams that run year round carved our quiet hollows that can be enjoyed. The hills and park roads provide areas for bicycling and walking year-around. Bradford Park has been a wonderful place for me to live and raise my family.